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Nazi’s leaked plan for annexing the West Bank, explained

Israel’s’ leaked plan for annexing the West Bank, explained

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s plan to annex the West Bank would see over 60% of the territory becoming a part of Israel. But Palestinian experts say it is “already happening.”

BY QASSAM MUADDI  

ISRAELI FINANCE MINISTER BEZALEL SMOTRICH ATTENDS THE FUNERAL OF ISRAELI SOLDIER SHILO AMIR IN THE MOUNT HERZEL MILITARY CEMETERY IN JERUSALEM, JULY 7, 2023. (PHOTO: ABIR SULTAN/EFE VIA ZUMA PRESS/APA IMAGES)

The issue of Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank has resurfaced in recent days after a leaked recording of Israel’s finance minister Bezalel Smotrich revealed a “dramatic” plan to impose permanent Israeli control over the West Bank “without the government being accused of annexing it,” as Smotrich was recorded saying.

Smotrich’s statements, recorded by the Peace Now Israeli NGO and published by CNN and the New York Times, were made during a speech he gave to settler leaders earlier in June. Smotrich was recorded saying that he had elaborated a plan in the past year and a half and exposed it to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was “fully onboard.”

The plan centers around transferring administrative authorities in the West Bank from the Israeli army to the civil authorities of the Israeli government. Smotrich said that he oversaw the creation of an entire administrative body directly linked to the government and that members of this body were already embedded in the Israeli army’s Civil Administration.

In 1967, Israel began administering the West Bank and Gaza under a military administrative body, the Military Government, and in 1981, the Civil Administration was established in its place. Following Netanyahu’s formation of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history in 2022, Smotrich was put in charge of the Civil Administration. Since October 7, Smotrich’s hardline policies pushing for settlement expansion have reached new heights, with the recently leaked annexation plan raising fears about the intentions of the self-described fascist toward the Palestinians living in the West Bank.

According to Smotrich, the administrative changes he wishes to implement represent a “dramatic change” equivalent to “changing the DNA of the system.”

Smotrich said that large budgets were allocated to infrastructure projects for settlement expansion and for “security measures” for the settlements, adding that the aim of such a plan is “to avoid the West Bank from becoming part of a Palestinian state.”

Smotrich plan ‘already happening’

Smotrich’s leak comes at a time when the West Bank has witnessed a dramatic increase in violent settler rampages against Palestinian villages since October 7. Back in the early days of the current Israeli assault on Gaza, Israeli settlers launched a series of attacks on Palestinian rural communities, completely expelling at least 20 communities in the Jordan Valley, the adjacent eastern slopes (the Mu’arrajat area), and in Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills. Smotrich’s ally and Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, personally oversaw the distribution of firearms to settlers, who continue to attack Palestinian villages and roads in the West Bank.

Smotrich’s plan “is a description of what is already happening on the ground,” Khalil Tafakji, a Palestinian expert on Israeli settlements and formerly the director of the maps unit in Jerusalem’s Orient House, told Mondoweiss.

“This is what we have been describing and warning against for years; a de-facto annexation of the West Bank in stages, which goes hand in hand with settlers’ violence to ethnically cleanse Area C from Palestinians.”Khalil Tafakji

“This is what we have been describing and warning against for years; a de-facto annexation of the West Bank in stages, which goes hand in hand with settlers’ violence to ethnically cleanse Area C from Palestinians,” he pointed out. 

Area C comprises the West Bank territories where Palestinians aren’t allowed to have any kind of sovereignty or authority under the Oslo Accords. It covers 61% of the West Bank and includes the territory’s borders, the Jordan Valley, and the space between Palestinian towns and cities.

“But the plan is, in fact, a major change to the way the West Bank is dealt with in the Israeli system,” Tafakji said. “As it will be under the civil control of the Israeli government, which would facilitate settlement building and expansion in such a way that Area C will become a direct extension of Israel.” 

“The next stage,” Tafakji continued. “Would be taking authority on building and urbanization in Area B from the Palestinian Authority, at the same time that pressure increases on Palestinians to force them to leave,” he explained.

Area B includes the urban areas outside the main city centers where Palestinians can exercise limited civil authority without security control, which is held by the Israeli army.

“Currently, in Area B, Palestinians ask for building permits from their local municipalities, who can give them within their urban plans,” Tafakji detailed. “This would remain unchanged, but the urban plans would no longer be defined by the municipalities and the Palestinian Authority’s planning departments, but rather by the Israeli government itself, turning Palestinian towns and cities into actual reserves controlled by Israel.” 

“It is not a major revelation of Israel’s intentions or strategy in the West Bank, but it shows how Israel is doing it and plans to do it in the future,” Tafakji clarified.

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